A Redbud Tree for Daddy

When our daughter asked for Christmas gift ideas for her daddy, I immediately thought about his love of dogwood trees. We have been losing one or two dogwoods every year due to old age and disease. This past fall we had to remove a dogwood that had been a source of pleasure every spring for the past 35 years. When we cut it, we discovered that its trunk was hollow and filled with ants. The empty spot in our landscape was like an empty hole in my heart. For weeks I glanced across the back yard and mourned its loss.
A replacement tree would be the perfect gift. So the week before Christmas, we went to one of our locally owned garden centers to find the perfect tree. I must say that the only other tree Scott has ever shown an interest in was the native redbud tree. He bought one for the front yard several years ago, and thoughtfully asks me every year if ‘we’ have fertilized the redbud. When we came upon a cultivar of the native redbud named ‘Forest Pansy’, we both decided that this tree would be ideal to fill the empty spot in the back yard. It’s in the ground and fills the empty space left by the removal of the dogwood.
The redbud, or Cercis canadensis, is one of our most spectacular early spring flowering trees. An early spring drive up Highway 100 towards Cave Spring, will help you to really appreciate this beautiful tree. Peeking from under the roadside hardwoods along this stretch of road are hundreds of redbuds bursting with color.
In March to early early April, the redbud will burst with clusters of thousands of tiny half inch pea-shaped pink to lavender blooms along the leafless branches. The flowers are very attractive to honey bees and some of our native bees and wasps. Hummingbirds and Henry’s Elfin butterflies enjoy the nectar of the redbud blooms. The flowers are very fragrant, making this a wonderful tree for forcing blooms for an indoor bouquet in early spring. And you can graze on the blooms too! Add redbud blossoms to your salads, bread and pancakes. You can eat the young pods raw, boiled or sauteed. They have a slightly sour taste, and are high in vitamin C.
As the blooms fade, seed pods will form. These green pods will be about 2 to 4 inches long, turning brown and papery looking as they age, often remaining on the tree throughout winter. Inside will be four to ten flat brown seeds which are eaten by Bobwhite quail and songbirds.
Leaves on the redbud appear soon after the blooms start to fade. Its heart shaped leaves make the redbud one of the most easily identifiable trees in the forest. Leaves on the species plant will become dark green as they age. New cultivars now available have spectacularly colored leaves. ‘Forest Pansy’ sports dark purple leaves from spring until fall. ‘Silver Cloud’ has white variegations and may require more shade than the darker leafed redbuds. If you love yellow, then ‘Hearts of Gold’ may be your choice, with its bright yellow foliage which really stands out in the garden.
Since this tree grows to only 20-30 feet tall and wide, it can be readily used in today’s smaller yards as a specimen tree to add color around the patio or deck. It could also be used at the corner of the foundation of the home. Use a row of redbuds to line your driveway-they love the sun. Plant them along the edge of your wood line where they will put on a show underneath the hardwood canopy trees. In the wild, redbuds are understory trees found along moist stream banks, rich woods, in ravines, on bluffs and in open rocky woods. Because of its tolerance for many kinds of habitats, it will work in any landscape.
Redbuds can be grown in sun or part shade, but do not tolerate full shade and will decline over a period of years if not given adequate sunlight.
Now is a great time to plant redbuds, or any other tree, shrub or perennial. Get them in the ground when the soil is not soggy, but not frozen. The trees will take advantage of the winter rains, growing a healthy root system to help them survive the dry summer months.
You’ll enjoy many years of beautiful flowers, nice fall color, and pretty leaves with the addition of a redbud or two to your home landscape.

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